As a mother, I worry. From day to day, the fleeting worries always change. Will my daughter find a friend? Will my son fall out of that tree he is climbing? Why is my 2 year old still waking up at night? Deeper concerns always lurk just below the surface.
My deeper concerns are merely hopes I have for my children (and for all children), and they pop up every so often. When my children leave our home, will they know how to connect with others? Will they know how to effectively communicate their thoughts and emotions? Will they find the sacred path within? Will they practice balance? And will they know what it feels like to practice creativity? Will they be creative?
Nurturing creativity in family is an important role as a parent. I have read books and blogs about family and creativity hoping to find some direction in nurturing a creative home, and while I find these resources extremely helpful and inspiring, my concerns for my children’s creative lives still linger. I watch them and I wonder, were they creative today? They build, they write stories, they compose songs, they solve complex math problems, they bake, and that’s enough, right? Of course it is.
But sometimes I don’t believe it. I’ve noticed that the tighter I hold onto the idea of being a mother that nurtures creativity, the sillier my behaviour becomes. My children are good at letting me know when I step out of balance, and one recent experiment demonstrates just how earnest I had recently become in my drive to nurture (more like stress) creativity.
Since we home educate, we have a lot of flexibility, and we have the luxury of trying out new ideas. After listening to Ken Robinson’s talk on how schools kill creativity, and after listening to my daughter complain about how people only ask her about maths and science and history and not about her music and art, I wondered what it would look like to add creativity to our day, naming it like any other traditional subject. Sounds like a good idea, right?
I wanted to claim creativity as a formal subject, and I did with my children. Not only did I add it to our day but I placed it right at the beginning of our day as if to say to them (and probably more to the world)—we hold creativity to be so dear that we begin our day with it!
Creativity as a traditional subject lasted two weeks. After a few days of complaining, we went back to our old system. What was I thinking?
While they weren’t able to articulate why they didn’t like creativity placed in their day this way, I learned a few things about the creative life and a really important thing about mothering.
One, the more I let go of my experiment, the more I recognized that my children didn’t need a separate space for creativity because it was at the heart of their work and their play. Creativity already punctuates daily life in our family. It is the luxury of home education.
Two, creativity is a process and a flow. While having a disciplined creative life is vital, practicing creativity can’t be demanded. Maybe my children are too strong minded for a bit of social experimentation dictated from the top down, but even so, I would rather be a creative mother who helps them notice the creative process and encourages them to gently enter the creative flow. I want to quietly (and perhaps even silently) point them toward their own creative life and process. Home educated and schooled children all need this kind of gentle presence from adults and other children. Imagine that kind of world? Imagine that kind of learning? Imagine that kind of creative activity?
And that leads me to the infamous adage, show by example. If I want my children to delight in stories, show them what that delighting looks like by reading a book. If I want my children to practice empathetic listening, show empathy. And if I want my children to be creative, then I need to get on with it…write that book, knit that skirt, make those presents, bake that scrumptious chocolate cake more often.
Create. Create. And create some more, and that is absolutely enough.